4:45. Baby’s up too early, screaming for milk.  I roll out of my bed to scoop him from his, and pray he goes back to sleep once he’s fed.  I drift in and out of sleep, my mind wanting to start the day already, but my body no where near ready.

6something.  Toddler’s at the side of the bed, asking for help putting on a superhero costume before the clock even reads 7.  Good grief.
7:30. Kids begin full invasion of bedroom.  Everyone’s hungry and I know we have no milk or eggs in the house.  I guess oatmeal’s on the menu.  I fight reality in exchange for a few more minutes of clinging to my pillow.  Ugh. Hate when I sleep late and the day gets ahead of me.  Note to self: go to be earlier.

8:45. Short words exchanged between tired spouses, both of us late and in a hurry this morning.  

Confession: Monday’s are hard. 

No staying in PJ’s at home today, and I better do something with my hair between dressing the kids in whatever clean clothes I can find.  I dig through piles of wrinkly, albeit clean laundry, piled in mountains on the floor, eyeballing the pile of dirty wash that’s creeping closer and closer to the clean.  I reeeeally need to get it all put away today.

9:58. How does an hour get away so fast? 
A rushed breakfast, cooked in a somewhat-dirty-from-last-night kitchen, and barely 1/2 hour of school squeezed in before hurrying out the door with all 4 kids to minister to our senior friends at the Nursing Home.  Good thing it’s in our neighborhood, and no farther away, because we were already 10 minutes late when we got into the van to roll down the hill.  

Just breathe, Joanna.  Relax, refocus, repent.
I hit the re-start button.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me…Restore to me, the JOY of Thy salvation, and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me…Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare Your praise.”  (Ps. 51:10, 12, 15)

10:12. Loving words spoken over the phone between spouses.  All’s well.
10:15. Honest prayers prayed with children before heading inside to see our elderly friends.      
Deep breath, here we go, Lord, glad you’re with us.  Give me a willing spirit. Use us for your glory.


Within minutes of being there, joy and peace seep into my hurried, over-burdened heart as we give out hugs, laugh, listen to and share stories. This is real life.

These are not strangers we visit, they are beloved friends.

Here’s Ms. Joan~ always smiling.  She loves our Jesus and it shows on her face.  We sing hymns together each week. In the Garden is her favorite. 

 She has a special place in her heart for my Joshua and calls him her Angel Boy.  He asks if I’ll take a picture with just her and him.  My heart melts as he wraps his 5 year old arms around her in her wheelchair.

Then there’s Mr. Bill.  I know we’re not supposed to have favorites, but we just can’t help it.  He waits for us each week, and worries we’re not coming when we’re late.  My little boys keep him busy, demanding rides down the hall on his lap, or laying under his wheelchair, to “work on the engine.”  He tolerates their antics better than I do. 
He kisses my face and tells me he “loves me madly” each time I go.  I love you madly too, Mr. Bill. 

As soon as she sees the camera come out, Ms. Bonnie begs for a picture with her and the children; wants the baby right up on her lap.  

 Miss Yetta too.  She loves my Caleb especially.  She’s held him in her arms since he was 1 month old.  Now, almost a year old, he tries to wiggle away when I hoist him up on her lap. Yetta kisses his fat cheeks and tells me, “you might have had him, but he’s MY baby.”  

So many are not pictured here, but they are no less special.  

We play a lively round of “balloon volleyball” in the dining room before visiting room-to-room with some who come out less often, but are nonetheless happy to see us at their doors.  We lay hands and pray for grace and strength, and the easing of aches and pains.  We look into eyes and ask, unashamedly, “do you know JESUS?”  

Yes, some weeks it is downright hard to get up and go through those doors and take a couple hours out of an already-busy day to spend time time with them.

This day, nothing in my flesh wanted to do it.
But in going and doing it anyway, I am filled and recharged.  It’s strange how that works.  I marvel at it time and time again. But when we leave there, we’re never not smiling.  It’s always, always a rich blessing that we receive in exchange for our giving.  

The day ahead is busy with errands.

12:30. I eat lunch with the children in the deli at Giant Eagle. :/  Better than fast food I suppose.  I drop 3 at the Eagle’s Nest and shop with the baby, who dozes off somewhere around isle 12.  I’m nearly done when I hear my name being paged over the loud speakers.  I detour back to the Eagle’s Nest to take my newly-potty-trained boy to the bathroom.  Good job, Si.  Mama is so happy you’re really and truly DONE with diapers!  😀

2pm. Home finally.  They need to go to naps, but they’re all antsy to get outdoors and play, so we push rest time back an hour while they burn off steam and I unload the groceries.

3:15. Snacks and rest time for the boys.  School for the big girl.  I’m pushing through, determined not to skip academics–this is our last (thank you Jesus!) formal week of school before summer break.
We finish reading practice, then delve into Roman history followed by Botany.
It’s nice to have a quiet house and hooray! we manage to do two very special hands-on projects: we build a (pretty cool!) Roman road and we collect and press flowers for our nature journal.

4:30.  Daddy’s home early before heading back out to a Pen’s game!  Boys are still asleep so the girls get him all to ourselves for a bit. 🙂  He joins our school adventures for a while, then is out the door with kisses.  

5:40. Everyone’s up from naps, and mama serves cereal for dinner (I know, but at that point, I’m too tired to do anything else). I look around at the house. Mercy. It is a complete wreck~Monday’s rarely leave time for cleaning, and I’m mostly okay with ignoring it until tomorrow.  
We go out back and piddle in the garden and the kids munch on sugar-snap peas.  I smile~a serving of veggies for dessert?

6:45.  Such a lovely evening and the woods are calling our names.  I’m torn: I want to go, but dare I attempt it with all 4? The kids beg and beg so after rummaging up my mobi wrap and strapping on one very large baby, we’re finally ready. My girl runs back in for her nature journal, and mine, “just in case” she says.

7pm. We’re finally on our way.  The children can hardly help running as the trail leads us on.  I yell for the kids to wait up for me and baby. 

It’s an effort getting going, but you know, as soon as we’re out of the messy house, and under the tree-canopy in the cool of the evening, my whole being relaxes.  My mind clears and my spirit is refreshed.  The kids feel it too.  The heavens are declaring.  The trees are singing His praises.  Our hearts join the symphony of worship.  

This is my Father’s world; I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; 
His hand the wonders wrought.

I take turns offering my hand to each child as we go on our way, and I enjoy listening to their lighthearted banter.  I kiss the head of my sweet baby boy.  He drops and we search for his binky no less than 5 times along the trail.  Silly boy wants to babble more and more these days and can’t keep the binky in and talk at the same time. 🙂

I lose track of time.

We spot this Rose Breasted Grosbeak on our way, along with a couple of deer.

And we found some deliciously fragrant honeysuckle…

The path leads on…

Good thing we wore our rain boots! 

We leave the wooded trails behind as we reach the duck pond.  

I snap a few photos of my Joshua as he stops for a rare quiet moment; he stands, soaking in the peacefulness of evening by the pond.

Meanwhile… 🙂

My girl sits to sketch the ducks for a while, but baby won’t let me join her.  His heavy body has slipped lower and lower in the wrap, and my (tired) arms are doing most of the holding now.  The sun is setting and it’s time to head home for baths and a late bedtime.  My boy brings home yet another Chinese Mystery Snail, this one “for daddy.”  🙂

We walk, hand in hand, and take our time getting back.  Tired three year olds with wet pants and soggy boots can’t rush, and I don’t want to risk a melt-down (after all, I can’t carry him if he throws a fit).  I’m grateful to be out of the woods now, and walking along the road where the going’s easier.
It’s good to go slow.  My big boy picks me a bouquet of wild daisies along the way. We’ll press them together once home.

Bath, then to bed without books tonight.  But not without a fight~the boys argue over jammies and the baby screams from his pack and play--where on earth did that binky go now?  I’m feeling agitated and I know I did too much for one day, plus I hate tucking them in by myself when Christian’s not here.  Grace, Lord?
At last, I press play on their cd players and one by one, they fall asleep to worship.  
It’s been a full day and we’re all tired; I read a bit, but can’t keep my eyes open.  Christian slips in beside me  before too long.  Pens lost, but I’m happy to have him home, safe and sound.  

Thank you Lord.  Your goodness is all around us.  You fill our empty cups over and over.  Your grace is sufficient, day by day.  We remember your faithfulness, we count the ways you’ve bestowed your love upon us. For It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening.” (Ps. 92:2)

Yes, it is good to proclaim it.
You are worthy of my praise, O God. You give meaning to my life.
Thank you for the gift of your love and faithfulness in our lives today.

“I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. (Ps. 3:5)